- Don't assume the reader knows anything about your school or plans. As much as the applicant may think everyone knows about the great things they're doing at their school, and believe their school has a national reputation, it isn't so.
- Don't use acronyms or jargon, especially without explaining them. Every state has their own acronyms and while they're commonly used locally, they're meaningless for reviewers. Further, if for example, the state assessment system allows schools to qualify for alternative status if they serve a very high percentage of at-risk students, explain what that means as far as qualification and accountability.
- Be succinct. Reviewers don't want to dig through data to determine the accomplishments of students on state assessments. Tell them your story: simply and forthrightly.
- Have someone, not associated with your program, read your grant application and give you feedback. Did you address all of the criteria in the instructions? Does it make sense to a novice?
- Follow instructions. They're included for a reason. Nothing screams, "I don't care about your instructions! Just give me the money!" more than using binder clips if they're prohibited or using a 9 point font when 12 point is required.
- Don't submit an application with grammatical errors. Sounds like common sense, doesn't it? I've never read a grant application that didn't have errors. It's the ones with numerous grammatical or spelling errors that raise the question, "How can these people possibly operate a school?"
That said, there are numerous grant applications that I've read over the years that I still remember. One of the best was written by a mother who started a charter school in a remote region of Colorado. She poured her heart into the application and everyone who read it commented on how they felt like they needed to visit the school because they could almost picture it when reading the application.
A challenge for many applicants is how to tell their story with data. Oftentimes data is provided, but there isn't anything to compare it to. For example, a Proficient/Advanced figure is provided, but it's impossible to determine if that's "good enough" when there isn't a district or state figure to compare it with. This also applies to demographic data.
Many federal and state grant programs are very competitive. Further, there is a great deal of accountability to ensure the funds (tax revenue) is being spent wisely. Applicants should have key leaders meet to discuss the proposed application, the expected outcomes and how effectiveness will be evaluated--before even starting the application.